By Erica Bacon
On Saturday May 8 CAGJ joined over 250 other Seattleites for “Spring into Bed”, a city-wide day of action dedicated to creating individual and community vegetable gardens as well as “food justice” gardens throughout Seattle. We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day or a more exciting event for our first Teach-out of the season! We visited Croft Place Townhomes in the Delridge Neighborhood and helped to create a community garden space for the folks who live there.
I arrived a bit early and was sent to help Sandy Rathbun, a resident of the community, gather materials for the day’s project. As a long time gardener, Sandy has wanted to start a community garden at Croft Place since she moved there. I was excited about the space outside of the housing units that appeared to be perfect for vegetable gardening until I was informed that those beds were intended for ornamental plants (though not much was planted in them at all) and were regularly sprayed with Round-up. Sandy had planted some herbs and vegetables outside of her own home but that space, too, had been recently sprayed. Naturally, she was concerned about eating the tainted vegetables. She told me that she has continually asked the property managers to stop spraying the area, so far to no avail. The compromise: to build raised beds for vegetable gardening at the front of the property, far from the Round-up’s range.
When the rest of the volunteers arrived we met with Ariana Taylor-Stanley, who works for the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association. She informed us that Delridge is a “food desert”, meaning that there is no place in the neighborhood where residents can buy fresh produce. The bus that travels to the nearest grocery store requires the ability to walk a decent distance up hill to get to it, so those who are less able-bodied have little choice about the kinds of foods that they can buy. People who live in Delridge who don’t have access to transportation have to purchase their food at places like gas stations and corner stores, which only sell snack foods and highly processed canned or boxed “meals” that are high in calories but low in nutrients. This project is particularly special because it is the third community garden in Delridge; the DNDA owns seven housing communities in Delridge and hopes to eventually provide opportunities for all residents of these communities to increase their food sovereignty. The Croft Place garden will be able to provide some fresh produce to residents of all 21 units at Croft Place if they want it.
Ariana and Sandy worked together for months planning out the garden and holding meetings to get other community members excited and involved. Croft Place also has an after-school kids gardening club which meets weekly and had already started several seeds for the community’s garden including tomatoes, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli and salad greens. The plan for the day was to build 10 raised beds (1 for each duplex unit to share), a perennial border to protect the garden from roadside emissions and an herb garden. With the help of several kids from the gardening club, a few other adult residents of Croft Place and15 CAGJ volunteers, the project was underway! Some of us began by cutting boards for the 4’ x 8’ raised bed frames while others dug holes around the perimeter of the soon-to-be garden for the shrubs that were later transplanted there.
It was remarkable to witness the speedy transformation of the relatively barren tract of land into a beautiful garden space. Before lunch time, all 10 beds were built and set into place and the perennial border finished. We worked the earth beneath the bed frames to provide more space for the vegetables’ root systems and filled the beds with rich compost that was sure to make the kids’ veggie seedlings happy very soon. Parche Stevens, a resident who helped to build the raised beds, spent the better part of the morning leveling out the earth in the spot of one bed in particular. Before returning home, he requested claim for his duplex in that spot, the one that he had already made a connection with through shovel and rake.
During lunch, a few more Croft Place residents joined us to give a heart-felt “thank you” to Sandy and Ariana for all of their hard work and help in seeing the project through. After filling our bellies, we joined back together in the garden to finish topping off the beds with compost and planting in the herb garden. As we were moving those last wheel barrels of compost down the hill, I couldn’t help but imagine what the garden might look like in a few months; what shapes and colors will fill the ten empty earthen canvases? What culinary artwork will be created from the herb and vegetable gardens? How many more people will develop a connection to this garden? Will gardening help to connect members of the community more closely together? Will it help to better connect adults with children? What will they learn from each other?
What have we learned from one another? I learned that it takes only one beautiful vision to inspire many others to take action. I learned that if we work together and share knowledge openly we can accomplish anything. Although we worked with no real sense of urgency, we created a community garden in half a day while other groups were doing the same throughout the city! A wise teacher once told me that we must do everything that we do with the genuine intention of love; she said that if we do this, love will be reflected in whatever it is that we have created indefinitely and whomever encounters that creation will experience and be nourished by that love. I believe that love flowed freely through Seattle on May 8; love for gardening, for community, for justice, for the earth. While we were all working separately in our respective gardens under the banner of “Spring into Bed”, that love connected us all together and will continue to connect others who enter those gardens in the future to the original intention of the community’s creations.
For more on the Spring Into Bed event and outcome, visit their website!